Hannah Arendt is a thinker who insists that we make distinctions. One of Arendt’s most controversial distinctions is that between racism and what she alternatively will call “race thinking” in The Origins of Totalitarianism, and then "prejudice" in many of her later essays. In the wake of the shooting in Buffalo last week, John McWhorter made his own distinctions while trying to understand the place of racism in U.S. society. McWhorter argues that we use the word racism today to mean too many things. He states that we need to distinguish between different aspects of what we call racism in order to think more clearly about the problems and prevent such tragedies as the shooting in Buffalo.
There are simply too many accepted truths that are not true. Two recent essays make the case that the Press needs to do better at avoiding making false claims, claims that then come to be accepted as verities. Holman Jenkins Jr. writes that Musicologist Ted Gioia “may be on to something when he says that after 9/11, the long reign of cool had ended, the reign of hot had begun.”
There is a widespread misconception that we are seeing a threat to democracy. More rightly, we are witnessing a democratic revolt against liberal-constitutional-limited government. The question, then, is how liberal-constitutional republics should react to threats from populist democratic movements. The general view at least in the United States is that constitutional democracies allow its critics—even its existential critics—the benefit of freedom of speech.
Hannah Arendt was a decidedly anti-metaphysical and anti-universalist thinker. For Arendt, “particular questions must receive particular answers.” There are, she writes, “no general standards to determine our judgments unfailingly, no general rules.” Amidst what Arendt calls the “break in the tradition,” it is a fact that “traditional verities seem no longer to apply” and the “loss of general standards and rules--cannot be undone.” There is no going backwards to some past golden era.
I am not a prognosticator. Take what I am going to say with a large dose of skepticism. It is very likely that in four years the United States will elect a minority woman as its President. The question may be, will that woman be Vice President Kamala Harris or former South Carolin Governor Nikki Haley?
Hannah Arendt was skeptical of social science theories. Theorists, or problem solvers as she often referred to them, are people of “great self-confidence.” They are confident in the education and intelligence and they “pride themselves on ‘rational.’” Dedicated to rationality, they “were indeed to a rather frightening degree above ‘sentimentality’ and in love with ‘theory...'"